A spec is a jargon-filled document that’s often a requirement for any business project. While many business people are familiar with the concept of a spec, they may not know how to write one. If you’re looking to get started, here are nine tips for writing a good copywriting spec.
Plan Your Specs Out Loud
It’s one of the primary goals of business to be able to plan everything out beforehand. When it comes to copywriting, that often translates to a written document titled ‘spec’. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be bound to that document. Instead, you can plan your specs out loud. That is, you can use your voice to give the document life. By brainstorming ideas and sharing your thoughts with your team, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and no details are left out. Moreover, you can ask questions and make suggestions as you go along. That process can help you identify any gaps in your knowledge and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Finally, you can check your work and be certain that you’ve covered everything.
Make It Searchable
There are a number of reasons why you might want to keep a copy of your spec for future reference. Maybe you’re the business person for the project and you’ll need to refer back to it sometimes. Or perhaps you’re the copywriter and you’ll need to find specific points in the document to refer back to when writing future content for the business. Whatever the reason, having a searchable copy of your spec is a good idea. That is, the content inside should be easily searchable. To create a searchable copy of your document, simply follow these simple steps:
- Go to the top of the document
- Click on ‘Bookmarks’
- In the text box, search for the keywords you’re using
- Press ‘Enter’
- The keywords you searched for will appear in a list at the top of the document
This process makes it much easier to find specific points in the document when you need them. Moreover, should you decide to edit the document at a later date, you can do so with ease. You won’t have to search for words as you did when you first wrote it because the content will remain intact.
Use The Right File Format
When it comes to copywriting, you’ll frequently encounter files in a variety of formats. That is, you might have an.xls file, a.doc file, or a.pdf file. If you’re writing a spec for a customer who doesn’t have easy access to computers, you might end up sending them the file on a physical medium. Regardless of the situation, using the correct file format can make a significant difference. For example, if you’re using.xls files, the customer will be able to open and view them easily on their computer. A.doc file will keep all of the formatting when opened in MS Word, and a.pdf file will retain its original formatting regardless of what software you use to open it. The point is that you need to use a format that makes sense for the situation. In most cases,.pdf files are the best option because they’re widely compatible and most people have access to them. Moreover, if you decide to make revisions to the copy in the future, you can do so with any of the available editing software. Simply find the version you had previously and open it in the same way. Alternatively, you can scan the document in and send it back out as a new file.
Use Metrics Without Being Overly Ambitious
When writing content for financial institutions, you’ll frequently encounter documents that are heavily formatted with metrics. That is, lots of numbers with lots of decimal places. While it’s good to be familiar with these numbers, you don’t need to become an expert in accounting to use them effectively. For example, if you’re writing press releases for a financial institution, it might be a good idea to include some metrics in your article. But you don’t need to write a whole book report on accounting to do so. Simply include the metrics that are relevant to the subject matter and don’t go above and beyond what’s necessary. Writing a book report on accounting just to include a few metrics would be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, if you do include some relevant metrics but don’t go overboard, you’ll demonstrate that you’re a competent writer who’s at least aware of the basics of metrics and is willing to apply them in appropriate situations. Moreover, by including only the most relevant metrics, you’ll save your reader not only time but also valuable space. That’s important because a lot of content that’s formatted with metrics can quickly become overwhelming. In most cases, an article that includes relevant metrics but doesn’t go overboard can be twice as long as one that’s full of numbers and formulae. But that’s a good thing.
Ditch The Abbreviations
If you’re writing a spec for a business that’s in a specific industry, you’ll encounter an endless list of abbreviations. For example, you might see SRP, NAP, CARB, and so on. While it’s good to know the meaning of these terms, you don’t have to use them in every sentence. In most cases, it’s better to write in full sentences instead of relying on abbreviations. That is, instead of writing “This product is sold in small, medium, and large sizes.” You can write “Product X is available in three sizes: small, medium, and large.” Using abbreviations makes your text unnecessarily difficult to understand for the reader. Moreover, if you decide to go digital with your paper copy of the spec, you’ll need to type out all the abbreviations. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a garbled mess that makes no sense. So, if you want your spec to remain intact, ditch the abbreviations in favor of full sentences.
Don’t Forget About Style
When you’re writing for a specific audience, you need to consider the style of the writing you’re using. That is, you need to decide whether you’ll use formal or informal language. While there’s nothing wrong with using formal language, it might not be the best choice for every type of writing situation. For example, if you’re writing an email to your team to describe your new project, you might want to go with your informal writing style. Alternatively, if you’re writing a letter to a potential customer to promote a new product, you might want to use more formal language. The point is that you have to consider how you’ll want the text to sound when read by someone else. That’s a lot easier said than done, of course, but it’s an important thing to keep in mind as you write.
Get A Sample From The Actual Customer
If you’re writing a spec for a business that hasn’t provided any samples before, your first port of call should be the customer. Even if you’ve worked on similar projects in the past or if the business is new, it’s a good idea to get a sample from the actual customer. That is, the person or company that’s going to be the final audience for your work. Although it might be tempting to simply go with the first sample you come across, that’s not necessarily the best idea. Instead, you should try to find as many samples as possible, preferably from across the country. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re meeting the needs of a variety of customers. Moreover, by getting samples from different businesses, you’ll be able to see different approaches to the same problem. In that way, you’ll be able to choose an effective approach for your own writing project. Finally, if possible, get samples from businesses in different industries. That way, you’ll be able to see how an automobile business might approach press releases versus a technology business. In most cases, you’ll find that businesses in different industries approach their copywriting projects differently. So, by comparing and contrasting various samples, you’ll have the opportunity to see the various strengths and weaknesses of each business approach.